God, Art and Did the Reformers Overreact?

Posted: January 12, 2022 in Uncategorized

Somewhere around the time of the Protestant Reformation, the church seems to have gotten the idea that the arts and the church would be separate. They saw abuses in the church and probably to some degree overreacted. Music was the only part of the arts that seemed to make the cut. Now to be clear, the reformers were not completely wrong. In any human endeavor, there is the possibility for abuse. Consider Moses’ bronze serpent, raised up so that those dying of snakebite could look at it and live. (Numbers 21:9)

This bronze serpent was later seen as a type for Jesus in the New Testament as we can look to Him and be saved. (John 3:14-15) Surely this was a good relic, right? Well it was, until it wasn’t and had to be destroyed by King Hezekiah because the people venerated it and built a shrine to it, making it an idol. (2 Kings 18:4) Yes we must exercise caution in the use of any gifts, but we need not use this as an excuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Are creative, artistic gifts given by God or not? And if they are, then why don’t we use them more? Think about it. What if rather than ignoring or impeding the arts in the church, what if we reclaimed them. 

After all the Tabernacle and the Temple were joint projects between God and man. A God who made the universe could have easily built for us any structure He wants us to have, but rather, He worked through the gifted hands He made. As Charity Bowman-Webb points out, the Tabernacle and the Temple are places where God and man connect. She poses the question, “Why would [God] position them so strategically if they were not crucial, if the intention was not to reveal something of His nature that would be critical for His people to grasp? I believe they are a prototype for us, showing us the potential to release the supernatural creativity of God and the power within it’s true form. If this is not important, then why has the enemy worked tirelessly to diminish the value of creativity within the church while it is highly esteemed in the world, working as a powerful force for His objectives.”4 Bottom line, creativity and the arts belong to God and we abandon these gifts at our peril. It’s time to reclaim what is ours. 

Remember God created all beauty. Look at a bird or a sunset, look at the Grand Canyon, none of these things is strictly utilitarian. God could have stopped at functionality but He didn’t. Instead He demonstrates His “artistic flair” in virtually everything He created. Further if you look at the descriptions of heaven or the new heavens and the new earth, or the New Jerusalem, you see that God exists in beauty. Think about the rainbow of humanity, the people of all these hues. God did that on purpose too, He could have made us all the same, automatons forced to do His will. Instead He gave us diversity in appearance and gifting so that we could come together and create beauty, but it’s not just the arts. While the emphasis on this book is largely the arts, creativity is a vast arena with many facets and most of the problems we face as the church could be solved with a little divinely inspired creativity. While many people think immediately of the arts when creativity is mentioned, creativity is all about problem solving—how we overcome our struggles, make life different, make life better, and on and on, these solutions exist at least in part in creativity, especially divinely inspired creativity

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